The Bug Bounty initiative allows everyone to participate in the search for vulnerabilities of a given type. The search is carried out in the products or the infrastructure exposed by the customer for the test. Announcements about such programs usually appear on particular sites that become intermediaries between hackers/researchers and the customer.
If the bug bounty hunter finds the problem and sends a clear and well-formed report, he gets a reward. Remuneration is not always money, so read the policies (programs) carefully if you plan to earn this way. In Bug Bounty, hackers go beyond material rewards. Some are looking for experience, earning a reputation, and tackling exciting challenges with the services and products that interest them the most.
Sometimes companies in their programs publish gratitude to specific researchers (hackers), which can also be a rewarding format or a nice addition to the money.
Growth of the Bug Bounty Industry
Quite common reasons explain the emergence of Bug Bounty initiatives. As practice shows, involving individual hackers in the search for bugs often leads to extortion on their part. Someone has found something and begins to demand unthinkable money for information, which he refuses to disclose in advance. Otherwise, he threatens to spread information about the bug across all forums and Telegram channels, turning to threats and not providing reliable data about the discovered vulnerability. In such a situation, it is impossible to conduct an analysis, and it is impossible to determine the total price.
Without bug bounty programs, you can’t count on a high culture of hackers. It is these initiatives that form it. Before them, the behavior of a hacker is determined by the fact that even having a real bug on hand, he is deprived of any guarantees of receiving payment for his work.
The emergence of bug bounties becomes a catalyst for the development of culture in the market. In addition, these sites attract experienced security professionals who can find interesting work here.
Bug Bounty Programs: Maximum Efficiency
Bug Bounty programs are designed to identify vulnerabilities in company systems in real-time. However, if an organization and its developers do not learn from their mistakes, the rewards for errors can be repeated as ethical hackers keep finding the same vulnerabilities.
Therefore, for Bug Bounty programs to have the maximum impact, developers need to learn from their mistakes. Consequently, it is necessary to conduct training for developers promptly to teach them to recognize and correct the errors they make when writing code. As developers improve their knowledge and skills in secure programming, the number of vulnerabilities will decrease, resulting in lower application security costs.
Bug Bounty Platforms
The Bug Bounty platforms contain a lot of technical information. In addition, you can find almost any kind of support and training for “young hunters” on them – from forums and educational blogs to “information boards” that reflect, for example, the company’s response time to your research and the average reward for found errors.
Your successes are also systematized: the number of errors found, their severity level, and so on. In addition, such platforms provide standardized design options for the bug search process (that is, most companies accept), rules for disclosing information about vulnerabilities found, and other documentation to understand the rules of “bug hunting” – general and related to specific companies. Finally, such standards allow, among other things, to automate the workflow, such as developing a modified report template that can be reused in tasks.
Pentesters and Bug Bounty Hunters
Many companies do not consider participating in Bug Bounty initiatives, limiting themselves to conducting pentests. But pentests are completed within the allotted time. This limitation prevents researchers from achieving a meaningful safety assessment for their product. Pentests aim to find vulnerabilities in areas that are intuitively recognized as creating a risk of bugs. Often they do not allow to identify complex, critical vulnerabilities and do not allow assessing threats in business logic, that is, something that is usually missed during development but is detected in real life.
Pentesting can take place with the disclosure of the application’s internal architecture, and source codes can be available to pentesters. This creates a strong bias towards the search for “pre-expected” bugs. Bug Bounty works differently. It is always a “black box” when the conditions are similar to a real hack, while in penetration testing, partly artificial conditions are tested.
Conducting private Bug Bounty programs is of great benefit. In this case, the researcher gets special access, that is, business accounts, and accounts of legal entities, to which ordinary bug hunters in public programs do not have access.
Enhanced Vulnerability Detection
The main benefit of a bug hunt program is that an organization identifies and fixes some vulnerabilities in its applications. However, if vulnerabilities are discovered and exploited by a cybercriminal before an organization can fix them, the consequences for the organization can be catastrophic.
With a bug bounty program, an organization has a better chance of identifying security vulnerabilities before they are exploited in real attacks. As a result, the program allows you to protect the company’s reputation and reduces the likelihood of serious hacks.
For a beginner bug bounty hunter, it is recommended to surf platforms such as:
- Vulnerability Lab
On many forums and community centers, you can find a general guide to bug bounty with all the necessary materials and practices.
Benefits of Bug Bounty Programs
Bug bounty programs are becoming increasingly popular among the public and private sectors. Participation in such programs provides test organizations with several different benefits.
Bug bounty programs allow participating companies to save significant amounts of money in many ways. For example, paying a bounty for a discovered bug will cost much less than fixing a cybersecurity incident caused by the same vulnerability. While reward amounts can vary greatly, even the largest rewards are often an order of magnitude smaller than the consequences of a hack, which can lead to data breaches, production shutdowns, and even company bankruptcy.
Under the terms of bug bounty programs, organizations only pay researchers if they discover a security issue. This is much more profitable than paying for the same security testing in-house or through contractors. The work of specialists will require hourly payment, regardless of whether they have found vulnerabilities or not.
Access to unique talents
Bug bounty programs allow an organization to access talent that may be difficult or impossible to attract and retain within the company. Many participants in the Bug Bounty program are highly qualified and specialize in identifying vulnerabilities.
Ethical hackers participate in bug bounty programs as they regularly offer huge rewards to experienced researchers. It is expensive to hire such researchers; their experience and knowledge require high wages. Through the Bug Bounty program, an organization can conduct vulnerability testing with a large number of ethical hackers with various skills, which is impossible with traditional penetration testing or vulnerability scanning.
Realistic Threat Simulation
One of the biggest challenges with penetration testing and vulnerability assessment is making the tests as realistic as possible. After all, the organization wants to find and eliminate vulnerabilities that attackers can most likely exploit.
Through the Bug Bounty program, the organization pays bug hunters to act exactly like the attackers. As a result, ethical hackers and cybercriminals have roughly the same company knowledge and access to its systems. As a result, vulnerability assessments performed by bug hunters are likely to be more realistic.
You can learn on your own by studying the conditional web application hacker’s handbook for a long time or go to courses with teachers quickly. But in any case, there is a lot of free material, and the bug bounty community is very friendly and always ready to help.
Aspiring bug bounty hunters will never be out of work, as companies are always concerned about security and will gladly pay to find valid bugs in the program code.
Definitely yes. With experience in the IT field, over time, everyone will be able to become a cybersecurity professional. However, this is not at all the same as pentest. You still have to learn even if you are already an experienced hacker.
To begin with, the theoretical structure of the work and the main programming languages, such as Python. Frontend basic and cross-site scripting will also be useful.
The company can pay $60 to $100 to find a bug. Prices for bugs are known in advance. Only the hacker who first reported the discovered vulnerability receives the money. When working in a company, the salary can vary from $2,500 to $10,000 per month.
As in any business, starting with theory is better, and basic knowledge is best. So next, we recommend you familiarize yourself with the platforms we wrote about in this article and start practical applications already in web applications.